Worrying about food waste is more than a trend.
Will we create the good old days 2.0?
What lands in the bin is a topic that the generation who lived through WWII had full focus. Exhortations to ‘clean your plate’ is an adage many of the older generations struggle to shake off even now. Really, it was only into the 1960s that consumers became a little more profligate. Exciting new temptations arrived, and food was much less about ‘putting something on the table’ and more about eating what you fancied. In the 1970s when increasing numbers of women went out to work the ‘the big shop’ really took hold. Freezers entered the home and fridges grew larger to cope with the amounts we were buying.
How much money do you waste on food every year?
However, spending more time at home in the past twelve months, people have become acutely aware of how much money is being spent on food and how many of us have adopted habits that need to change. Wasted food equals wasted money and anyone who has watched large supermarkets piling trolleys full of food to be destroyed will understand the ‘criminality’ of this kind of behaviour. According to Keep Britain Tidy average households themselves waste about £800 of food annually.
Photo: Foodism 360
Lockdown has also meant more home cooking
This has prompted companies to looked long and hard about the waste they have been forced to carry as consumers change what they buy, alongside where and when they buy it. Certainly, current levels of wastage are unsustainable. The Felix Project states that almost 10 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK with around one fifth of this figure being generated by the food manufacturing industry itself. Up until recent months less than 1% has been recycled in any way that is fit for human consumption.
Photo: Mor Shani
1 in every 5 shopping bag contents go into the bin
In an attempt to capture the ‘no waste’ mood manufacturers have been looking into their own habits and realised there are savings and profit to be made by doing things differently. This is especially pertinent as we look into the gaping jaws of a UK recession. Inevitably, consumers will be feeling the squeeze and be looking at ways to both save and use everything that’s brought into the home. When you consider that according to WRAP 1 in every 5 shopping bag contents go into the bin, it’s shocking. Photo: Alex Motoc
Of course, the whole situation is complex
Shoppers expect to see everything, they could possibly fancy available on shelves every single day. Seasonal eating has never seemed so far away. However, rich data, planning and management is changing this. Although our ‘just in time’ approach to warehousing creaked a little through the first lockdown, supermarkets and manufacturers know that interrogating data and managing both surplus and 100% availability are integral to remaining profitable in challenging times.
Consumers too have been sharing food through apps like Good To Go and Olio. Yet manufacturers have more sophisticated solutions in mind. Developing brand new products from surplus production is one such trend. Many consumers are in full support and are working hard to support such initiatives.
What kind of new repurposed products might we see on shelves?
A good example is Marks & Spencer. They have been using surplus bread to transform into garlic bread. It is made then frozen. Others use upcycled, misshapen bread ferment to make fruit buns. When you consider that 900 000 tonnes of bread is binned every year which equates to around 24 million slices it’s quite a problem. In fact, surplus products are being treasured like never before from whey into ricotta and waste less sourdough. Overproduction is certainly a problem and also damaged packaging. When we manage to sort out the best before, use by and display by debacle, we might be able to waste less. Yet, should we put the onus purely on to manufacturers? Photo: Sandevil Sandh
How can we change our own behaviours?
TV programmes like Eat Well for Less have highlighted how much some households are spending and wasting on food. However, packaging might prompt all shoppers to think carefully about how food should be stored by adding messaging. Single person households are particularly vulnerable to waste and little is done for them. Packet and portion sizes are often too large, and many single householders complain about being forced to eat the same meal countless times during a week just to finish it.
Are we subconsciously returning to the so called ‘good old days’?
Our nod to days of rationing and reducing waste has also prompted consumers to think about ‘the good old days’. Many of us have probably been guilty of thinking about foods we used to eat before the world changed so dramatically. Manufacturers have picked up on the trend for traditional flavours that sit side by side with innovation.
Who hasn’t succumbed to comfort food in the past year?
Fondant Fancies, Cherry Bakewell, retro sweets and the good old Black Forest Gateau have flow off the shelves as we look backwards Marketing Manager for Bakels, Michael Schofield, thinks this will be ongoing through 2021:
“Nostalgic bakery goods deliver the same warm feeling and as we move into 2021 with Covid very much still on our doorsteps, is likely to be on consumers’ agendas in the coming months.”
The Felix Project rescues almost 10 tonnes of perfectly good and healthy surplus food every single day. This food is equivalent to almost 6.5 million meals a year. They are just one organisation doing their best to prevent waste. Now it’s up to the rest of us to do our bit and manufacturers to employ a new breed of employee that has sustainability uppermost in their minds. Photo:Michael Fousert